Tonight (Wednesday 18th March) the Secretary of State announced that schools across the UK will close from Friday 20th March until further notice. Speaking in the House of Commons, Gavin Williamson also confirmed that exams and assessments would not be held this academic year.
He told MPs: “After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon, they will remain closed until further notice…This will be for all children, except for those of key workers and children who are most vulnerable.”
Examples of these workers may include NHS staff, police, delivery drivers, teachers and other school staff who need to be able to go to work. The list of jobs that constitute “key workers” will be published tomorrow. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans. If your profession is likely to be on the ‘key worker’ list please reply to this email so I can gather an idea of numbers.
The statement said that the government will give schools the flexibility to provide meals or vouchers to children who are eligible for free school meals, and will launch a national voucher system as soon as possible. Where possible, the government are encouraging settings to stay open for this purpose throughout the Easter holidays.
The government is asking nurseries, schools and colleges to be at the forefront of the national response to this crisis. Schools will look very different in these circumstances to the normal state of affairs.
Schools and Local Authorities heard this announcement this evening at the same time as the rest of the world. We currently have no further information so we will start thinking creatively and strategically tonight and wait for more detailed official information tomorrow.
The government announcement was far from straightforward. We had been anticipating the need to provide childcare for key health and social care staff, but the announcement went far wider than this. We have been carefully reading the situation regarding Coronavirus and our three schools were well prepared in sending out home learning packs today for 10-12 weeks, based on Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, saying last week that school closures would have to go on for 13 to 16 weeks or longer to have an impact. We will get packs out to families who are already self-isolating. I would like to pay tribute to the fantastic job our high quality staff have done in producing these packs in addition to a full teaching commitment and the national picture playing on everyone’s minds.
For the last two days of the term/year(?) we continue as usual with our hand washing routine throughout the day. The guidelines in place on whole household isolation in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak remain the same:
- If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.
- If you live with others and you or another member of the household have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. It is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community.
- For anyone in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period.
The symptoms are:
- A high temperature (37.8 degrees and above).
- A new, continuous cough.
The full ‘stay at home’ guidance for households with these symptoms can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance.
I understand that many of you will have questions about the weeks ahead; please be assured that we are passing all the information we have along to you and there will be plenty more to come in the next few days. As I’m sure you can imagine, every member of the school staff will be working tirelessly to ensure that the next two days are as smooth as possible. To assist us with this, please try to avoid phoning the school unless absolutely necessary tomorrow and Friday.
We would like to achieve something positive on the last Friday itself as our last normal day of operations. To that end, we would like children to donate an item of tinned or packet food which can be given to the Cotswold Community Awareness charity and local church foodbanks, who we have been working with in designing a co-ordinated support package for families in response to food poverty. We know everyone is anxious about the current climate, but we would like to try and do something as a school community to help people who need it most.